Finding your own unique point of view in an overwhelming, rowdy world takes time, patience and introspection. Being able to execute it in a way that feels authentic and distinctive is another battle entirely. Growing up in suburban East Kilbride and now based in Glasgow, Declan Welsh is a poet and songwriter that has managed to cement his individuality by putting humanity at the core of his comments about today’s current affairs. Along with his band The Decadent West, Welsh is here to use his music as a catalyst for hope and for change.
Joined by Duncan McBride (Guitar), Ben Corlett (Bass) and Murray Noble (Drums), the band are known for their strong socialist views and performed in Palestine in 2016 as well as Billy Bragg’s curated Leftfield Stage at Glastonbury. Releasing the All My Dreams Are Dull EP back in 2018, they built a strong following in the Scottish indie scene thanks to their anthems about toxic masculinity, rent increases, the rise of right-wing fascists and battling the intolerance that surrounds us. Now, debut album Cheaply Bought, Expensively Sold sees the four-piece build upon this raucous political fury, enforcing the idea that in today’s environment, we’re unable to ignore the atrocities forging our existential dread.
Welsh began writing songs on his acoustic guitar in his teens. Once Duncan, Ben and Murray came onboard, West wrote a bunch of new songs and pushed his native accent to the forefront of his output, delivering dexterous word play with tender sentimentality, contemplative resolution and confrontational gusto. While social issues are a central focus of this artistic expression, single ‘Absurd’ also asserts the need for self reflection in the midst of these political issues. “Don't just say stuff to look like you have moral fibre,” he explains. “Forgive yourself for the fact we all have to exist, and try your best to self reflect and be a better artist and human being – not for yourself but because the world needs better artists and better human beings.”
Releasing a poetry pamphlet called 'If You Like That Sort Of Thing', Welsh often begins the band’s sets with spoken word poetry performance. Track ‘Do What You Want’ was also re-imagined as a spoken word piece for the Teatum Jones opening show at London Fashion week earlier this year. Nourishing Welsh’s talent as a wordsmith, the four-piece are able to transform these musings into indie-pop bangers that call back to the catchy hooks of the early 00s.
Recorded at 7west and produced by Glasgow staple Chris Marshall (Gerry Cinnamon, The Dunts, Van Ts, Baby Strange), the album affirms the message that politics are always personal. They’re tethered to our every day and whether it’s through music, social media or conversations with friends, this need for collective comfort and camaraderie is more important than ever.
There’s stand-out track ‘The Dream’ which sees the group internally advocate for a left communist school of thought and reference the likes of Simone De Beaviour, Jean Paul Satre, Karl Marx, Angela Davis and more. “I think that the struggle for the rights of every human being and the struggle against this system is a noble aim,” Welsh explains. “This is me having a wobble then coming out redder than ever.” Lead single ‘How Does Your Love’ celebrates this power of coming together by honouring the catharsis of provincial nightclubs; their unapologetic, sticky dancefloors and the beauty found in getting blitzed and kissing a stranger through the strobe lights. Sometimes all we want to do is get drunk and forget about our crappy week.
So how much can music change the world? As opener and single ‘No Fun’ cheekily asks in a London accent, who even listens to guitar music anymore? For Welsh and The Decadent West, it’s a need to create messages of solidarity to those that feel lost and unheard, providing an insatiable, refreshing contrast to the squawking suppressors. It’s about having a specific point of view and owning the real life experiences that make us the messy humans we are. “It’s this idea that actual political art is sometimes very necessary, but very much preaching at the crowd. A lot of these songs are trying to spark collective change,” he says. “I think everything you do is political. If you're not speaking for something, it’s political. If you are, it’s political.”
While Welsh does describe their musicality as “four guys playing guitar music”, it’s their unique, proactive point of view that sets Cheaply Bought, Expensively Sold aside from the usual offerings. There’s a sense of searching for security in our surroundings and reflections of what can happen when we try and be our best selves. It’s four guys playing guitar music and fighting for what they believe in. “We know what most bands try and say in this genre. There's loads of different examples of people who fail to do good things by and large. The message of indie guitar bands is 'let’s go get pissed' and 'up the boys'. We know that and we're trying to subvert it a bit,” Welsh explains. “I think having a message about kindness, compassion and hope that some of the songs have and caring about other people in society is important altogether. I want people to connect with it and with us. Music should make you feel better.”